Manual Three Kinds of Divinely Appointed Suffering

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But obviously it is at Calvary that we see the full display of suffering taking place. All that which is presented in Isaiah 53 finds full expression in the gospel accounts of the suffering and death of Christ on the cross. Needless to say, the sufferings of Christ are ultimately indescribable. Who can fathom them? Multi-millions of words have been offered to describe the sufferings of Christ on the cross, yet they remain so far out of our reach. Yet we know that because of his sufferings, we have not only the chance of forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God, but we also have a way to cope with our own sufferings.

We know he is intimately aware of what we are going through. So there is nothing we experience by way of pain and suffering that he is not unacquainted with. As such he is nearer to us than anyone else can be. In his immensely important book The Cross of Christ John Stott looks at various ways in which the sufferings of Christ relate to our sufferings. Unlike various false views of God which claim that he is aloof from our sufferings, or that he even delights in watching us suffer, the cross demonstrates the exact opposite.

The God who allows us to suffer, once suffered himself in Christ, and continues to suffer with us and for us today. There is good biblical evidence that God not only suffered in Christ, but that God in Christ suffers with his people still. Did Jesus not ask Saul of Tarsus why he was persecuting him, thus disclosing his solidarity with his church?

Did Jesus not say that in ministering to the hungry and thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and the prisoner, we would be ministering to him, indicating that he identified himself with all needy and suffering people? That is the God that we are dealing with: not a divine absentee landlord, not an impersonal force, and not an indifferent sovereign. We have a God who knows all about suffering and is fully willing to enter into our suffering.

This is not a God detached from the pain and suffering of the world, but one fully submersed in it all. God is all-good: no other god has wounds. At the very heart of the Bible is a God who cares and comes to the aid of those who look to him.

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In contrast to the Eastern religions, the biblical response to evil and suffering is one of engagement, not detachment. And in contrast to secularist beliefs, we are not on our own as we fight evil…. In a real world of pain, how could one worship a God who is immune to it? Unless God has wounds too, any mere sense of duty always flags in facing the worst evil, high-minded principles run out of breath, education and speculation become mere chatter, and sophisticated therapy is exposed as charlatan incompetence.

In the crucifixion of Jesus, sheer and utter evil meets sheer and utter love; unadulterated love wins out over unadulterated evil. No one can ever go so low that God in Jesus has not gone lower. There is hope for victims; there is even forgiveness for perpetrators. For those who know the cross, the pages of history are stained indelibly in blood with the evidence of the goodness of God. God is good, and God is with us — even in our sorrow, our grief, and our sufferings. He is, after all, the Suffering Servant.

1 Thessalonians 3 – Appointed to Affliction

Part One of this article is found here: billmuehlenberg. At the time of Christ the annual contribution was usually collected between early March and the Passover. If Jesus was subject to this tax, He was at this time several weeks in arrears. The conversation between Peter and the tax-collector had occurred outside the house. When Peter entered, and was about to inform the Master concerning the interview, Jesus forestalled him, saying: "What thinkest thou, Simon?

Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. Peter must have seen the inconsistency of expecting Jesus, the acknowledged Messiah, to pay atonement money, or a tax for temple maintenance, inasmuch as the temple was the House of God, and Jesus was the Son of God, and particularly since even earthly princes were exempted from capitation dues.

Peter's embarrassment over his inconsiderate boldness, in pledging payment for his Master without first consulting Him, was relieved however by Jesus, who said: "Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee. The money was to be paid, not because it could be rightfully demanded of Jesus, but lest non-payment give offense and furnish to His opponents further excuse for complaint.

Enduring Word Bible Commentary 1 Thessalonians Chapter 3

The "piece of money," which Jesus said Peter would find in the mouth of the first fish that took his bait, is more correctly designated by the literal translation "stater," [15] indicating a silver coin equivalent to a shekel, or two didrachms, and therefore the exact amount of the tax for two persons. It is notable that He did not say "for us. He reverently acknowledged that He was the Son of God in a literal sense that did not apply to any other being.

While the circumstances of the finding of the stater in the fish are not detailed, and the actual accomplishment of the miracle is not positively recorded, we cannot doubt that what Jesus had promised was realized, as otherwise there would appear no reason for introducing the incident into the Gospel narrative. The miracle is without a parallel or even a remotely analogous instance. We need not assume that the stater was other than an ordinary coin that had fallen into the water, nor that it had been taken by the fish in any unusual way. Nevertheless, the knowledge that there was in the lake a fish having a coin in its gullet, that the coin was of the denomination specified, and that that particular fish would rise, and be the first to rise to Peter's hook, is as incomprehensible to man's finite understanding as are the means by which any of Christ's miracles were wrought.

The Lord Jesus held and holds dominion over the earth, the sea, and all that in them is, for by His word and power were they made. The Lord's purpose in so miraculously supplying the money should be studiously considered. The assumption that superhuman power had to be invoked because of a supposed condition of extreme poverty on the part of Jesus and Peter is unwarranted.

Even if Jesus and His companions had been actually penniless, Peter and his fellow fishermen could easily have cast their net, and, with ordinary success have obtained fish enough to sell for the needed amount. Moreover, we find no instance of a miracle wrought by the Lord for personal gain or relief of His own need, however pressing. It appears probable, that by the means employed for obtaining the money, Jesus intentionally emphasized His exceptional reasons for redeeming Peter's pledge that the tax would be paid.

The Jews, who did not know Jesus as the Messiah, but only as a Teacher of superior ability and a Man of unusual power, might have taken offense had He refused to pay the tribute required of every Jew. On the other hand, to the apostles and particularly to Peter who had been the mouth-piece of all in the great confession, the payment of the tax in ordinary course and without explanation by Jesus might have appeared as an admission that He was subject to the temple, and therefore less than He had claimed and less than they had confessed Him to be.


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His catechization of Peter had clearly demonstrated that He maintained His right as the King's Son, and yet would condescend to voluntarily give what could not be righteously demanded. Then, in conclusive demonstration of His exalted status, He provided the money by the utilization of knowledge such as no other man possessed. On the way to Capernaum the apostles had questioned among themselves, as they supposed beyond the Master's hearing; questioning had led to argument, and argument to disputation.

The matter about which they were so greatly concerned was as to who among them should be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. The testimony they had received convinced them beyond all doubt, that Jesus was the long-awaited Christ, and this had been supplemented and confirmed by His unqualified acknowledgment of His Messianic dignity. With minds still tinctured by the traditional expectation of the Messiah as both spiritual Lord and temporal King, and remembering some of the Master's frequent references to His kingdom and the blessed state of those who belonged thereto, and furthermore realizing that His recent utterances indicated a near crisis or climax in His ministry, they surrendered themselves to the selfish contemplation of their prospective stations in the new kingdom, and the particular offices of trust, honor, and emolument each most desired.

Who of them was to be prime minister; who would be chancellor, who the commander of the troops?


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  6. Personal ambition had already engendered jealousy in their hearts. When they were together with Jesus in the house at Capernaum, the subject was brought up again. Mark tells us that Jesus asked: "What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? From Matthew's record it may be understood that the apostles submitted the question for the Master's decision. The apparent difference of circumstance is unimportant; both accounts are correct; Christ's question to them may have eventually brought out their questions to Him.

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    Jesus, comprehending their thoughts and knowing their unenlightened state of mind on the matter that troubled them, gave them an illustrated lesson. Calling a little child, whom He lovingly took into His arm, He said: "Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

    Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.

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    But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Even the apostles were in need of conversion; [19] respecting the matter at issue their hearts were turned, partly at least, from God and His kingdom. They had to learn that genuine humility is an attribute essential to citizenship in the community of the blessed; and that the degree of humility conditions whatsoever there is akin to rank in the kingdom; for therein the humblest shall be greatest.

    Christ would not have had His chosen representatives become childish; far from it, they had to be men of courage, fortitude, and force; but He would have them become childlike.


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    The distinction is important. Those who belong to Christ must become like children in obedience, truthfulness, trustfulness, purity, humility and faith.

    The child is an artless, natural, trusting believer; the childish one is careless, foolish, and neglectful. In contrasting these characteristics, note the counsel of Paul: "Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men. Whosoever shall offend, that is cause to stumble or go astray, one such child of Christ, incurs guilt so great that it would have been better for him had he met death even by violence before he had so sinned.

    Dwelling upon offenses, or causes of stumbling, the Lord continued: "Woe unto the world because of offences! As it is better that a man undergo surgical treatment though he lose thereby a hand, a foot, or an eye, than that his whole body be involved and his life forfeited, so is it commended that he cut off, tear away, or root out from his soul the passions of evil, which, if suffered to remain shall surely bring him under condemnation.